Bulgaria vows to 'do utmost' to remove Schengen doubts

21st December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Sofia promised Tuesday to "do its utmost to remove the doubts" over its plans to join Europe's passport-free 25-nation Schengen travel area after France and Germany blocked the bid.

"We are aware that the political situation in some EU member countries is complicated. For that reason, we will do our utmost to remove any doubts, including in the areas of the judicial system and society as a whole," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Vessela Tcherneva told AFP.

"From a technical point of view, Bulgaria will be ready in March" to join Schengen, she insisted.

"Joining Schengen is one of the priorities of the government and Bulgaria as a whole," Tcherneva said.

Earlier Tuesday, a European Commission spokesman said that France and Germany had decided to block Bulgaria and Romania from joining the Schengen area next year.

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere told the European Commission in a letter that it was "premature" to let them enter Schengen in March 2011, said spokesman Michele Cercone.

Allowing a country to join Schengen must be agreed by members states by unanimity.

In their letter to European home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, the two ministers cited shortcomings in efforts by Bulgaria and Romania to battle corruption and organised crime, Cercone said.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007.

The Schengen area includes 22 of the EU's 27 members plus Iceland, Switzerland and Norway.

© 2010 AFP

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